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Outdoor fountain with bronze frogs spitting water.

Ram-Headed Southern Storyteller

Field review by the editors.

Birmingham, Alabama

Some folks look at Frank Fleming's "The Storyteller" sculpture and only see a human body with the head of a goat. To be fair, you don't normally find something like "ram-man" (as he's known) on public art in the Deep South -- unless you're looking at one of Fleming's other sculptures.

Is it godless New York liberal culture in Birmingham? Is it an after-midnight rendezvous for red-eyed pagans? Are the five frogs listening to goat-guy really arranged at the points of a satanic pentagram?

Outdoor bronze statue of a ram's head on a human body holding a book.

Well, no. Fleming (1940-2018) was an Alabama native. He sculpted animals because of Southern and older storytelling traditions employing smarty-pants creatures (think Br'er Rabbit), and because he wanted to convey the idea of storytelling as a "peaceable kingdom." He also wanted the sculpture to interest children.

The Storyteller sits on a stump, reading to his animal pals from an open book, holding a tall staff topped with an owl. The audience animals sit on circular platforms, a hare rides on the back of a tortoise. Five frogs spit water arcs crisscrossing the fountain.

It's in front of a Methodist church, where we'd expect a Christ counseling his flock rather than Ram-Man. But the sculpture's satanic connection is an urban legend. The only hellish thing we noticed is its location -- in the heart of Birmingham's busy Five Points district, which meant we had to park several blocks away in order to walk to see the sculpture.

Ram-Headed Southern Storyteller

20th St. S., Birmingham, AL
5 Points. 11th Avenue, 20th St. S and Magnolia S.
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In the region:
African Village in America, Birmingham, AL - 3 mi.

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